Atok’s zama zamas now continue to mine illegally in broad daylight

ATOK – It will take extra measures to get rid of the local zama zamas as they keep on digging for precious metals illegally.

Barely a year after the police clamped down on lawbreaking miners in this area, their activities seem to have resurfaced again.

Steelburger/Lydenburg News visited Tjibeng, Ga Selepe, Phashaskraal, Makgalanoto villages to investigate if the operations had indeed resumed again.

According to one of the resident, trucks roam the villages for days, looking for perfect opportunities to extract chrome.

“They might remain in the villages for about two weeks waiting for the perfect opportunity to transport chrome and platinum,” the source said.

In August 2016, officials from the Limpopo Department of Mineral Resources (DMR), police and the sheriff of Burgersfort halted the large-scale illegal chrome mining on the farms of Winterveldt 417 SK, Jaglust 418 SK and Zeekoegat 421 SK.

“After their machines were confiscated by the police, they stopped mining for few months. Around November, other illegal miners started to mine at night, but now they are doing so unchallenged in daylight,” said the source.

According to Lt Col Moatshe Ngoepe, spokesman for the Limpopo police, machines such as caterpillars, excavators and drillers were confiscated by the sheriff and the machinery is under police surveillance.

“This can be other illegal miners, or maybe the old ones have purchased new machines. We tried arresting them in August, but it looked like they were tipped as there was no one at the sites when we bombarded them. We are still investigating cases of illegal mining in our stations,” he said.

Ngoepe revealed that they occasionally patrol the areas to try to catch those mining illegally.

One of the miners told this reporter that they mined illegally because of hunger, “What has brought us here is hunger. This is what made us come here and mine to make money. We struggle to get jobs, and this seems like a better way to support our families.”

The traders are allegedly from Hong Kong in Asia, they are alleged to be determining the price. According to the miners, their prices bear no relation to the ones offered by the formal markets.

“The prices differ, some sell for R800 others for R600, it depends on what price you are willing to sell it for,” they said.

The DMR had been aware of the problem since 2015, spokesman Ayanda Shezi said, and had visited the sites to try to stop the activity.

It said in a statement that a task team based in Limpopo’s Office of the Premier had been established to look into the matter.

“The DMR remains the only authority that can issue a mining permit, prospecting rights and mining rights, in terms of the applicable laws. Any other entity undertaking this responsibility is breaking the law,” the DMR said in a statement.

“Given the nature of mining, it is extremely dangerous to operate outside the regulatory framework. The department regulates the industry to ensure mining occurs in a sustainable manner and that permit and rights holders also comply with health and safety regulations,” the DMR said.

Experts estimated the illegal miners may already have extracted 360 000 tons of chrome with an estimated value of

R500 million.

Gilbert Motseo

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